Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: Angela Thirkell

I read somewhere that Angela Thirkell was the new Anthony Trollope, so of course I had to read her, and chose Wild Strawberries because it had the earliest publication date (1934) I could find at the library.  It's probably not fair to judge an author by one of her earlier works, but I think it's accurate to say that Angela Thirkell is not a second Anthony Trollope.  Trollope has way more substance, but Thirkell is still worth reading for those of us who like cozy, genteel comfort literature, set in the British countryside.

Wild Strawberries has all the usual suspects:  the vicar, the vague upper class matrons, the pretty young girl the charming young men, the enviable country house, not too far from London.  In general, I liked this novel, but with some reservations.  It's a product of its times and the "n" word makes a startling appearance.  There's a certain aristocratic brutality and xenophobia.  A tedious character is labeled a "toady" and treated unkindly.  A career driven woman announces she will be part of a "companionate marriage"--a union between a straight woman and an openly gay man.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that is what you want to do, but Thirkell has this way, as you will see, of funneling different social types into groups she finds ridiculous.  More examples: A French family comes to stay in the neighborhood.  The mother is annoying and vulgar, but the quiet, unassuming father is considered acceptable.  It's implied that one could like the French if they weren't so annoyingly French.   A group of weekend warriors at the train station make the "fascist salute."  Thirkell's not approving of nazism here, but it's strange how she makes a point of identifying a mildly irritating group of tourists with such a repugnant ideology.  (Then again, wouldn't it be convenient if bothersome out-of-towners always identified themselves with an outward signal of some kind so we would know to steer clear of them?)

That said, I really enjoyed this book.  There's an exquisite bit in which a thoughtless young man invites the young girl to lunch ( she has a crush on him) and he also invites another woman.    Lady Emily, the matriarch of the Leslie family, is hilariously vague and absentminded.  Wild Strawberries won't require you to expend much intellectual effort, but you will be entertained, although not without a few eye rolls.


  1. Isn't it interesting to see how some books are so dated in specific ways? Like when I read Judy Blume aloud to my sons and realized they had no idea women wore "pant suits" and hats or sat on "Davenports."

  2. Wait, so inviting multiple women you are interested in to lunch, at the same time, is a bad idea? Who knew?????

  3. I don't do eye-rolling.
    I do "rip the bloody thing in two and hurl into the nearest trash recepticle"